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Is It Permissible to Narrate Israeliyyat?

The Islamic Shari’ah came and abrogated all the precedent statutes (laws), though reserving the foundations of the doctrines and whatever be non-contradictory with the rules with which Allah sent all the messengers to His creatures. The holy Qur’an declared clearly that People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) have inscribed books from their own for parting with them for a trifling price.

Because of this, the Messenger of Allah forbade Muslims from learning or taking from Ahl al-Kitab any thing that contradicts the principles, rules and norms of the Din of Allah, flying into a rage when observing any of the Muslims reporting anything from them. Ahmad reported from Jabir ibn Abd Allah that Umar ibn al-Khattab brought the Prophet a book he got from someone of Ahl al-Kitab and read it for him. Thereat the Prophet became angry exclaiming: Are you believing in them, O Ibn al-Khattab? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, had Moses been alive, it would have not been within his power but to follow my guide. In another narration: He became furious and said: I have brought to you a pure pristine law (shari’ah). Never inquire Ahl al-Kitab about any matter, as they either tell you the truth and you belie it, or tell you falsehood and you believe it

Al-Bukhari reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah as saying: Never believe Ahl al-Kitab and never belie them (all the time), but you should say: we believe in Allah and in that which was revealed to us and that was revealed to you, and our God and yours is One, and unto Him we have surrendered.

Al-Bukhari also reported the hadith of al-Zuhri on the authority of Ibn Abbas that he said: How do you inquire Ahl al-Kitab about anything, while your Book, which Allah revealed to His Messenger, being the last of books (scriptures), so pure and devoid of any blemish, for you to read. It revealed to you that Ahl al-Kitab have made many changes and alterations in the Book of Allah, writing by their hands a book claiming it to be from God so as to part with it for a trifling price! Doesn’t the knowledge revealed to you forbid you from questioning them? No by God, we never saw a man asking you about that which was revealed to you.

Ibn Jarir reported that Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud said: Never inquire about anything from Ahl al-Kitab, as verily they never guide you (to truth) while they are misguided. You either deny the truth, or believe in falsehood!

These being the correct narrations that agree with religion and reason (‘aql), and were known among the researchers.

The above-mentioned were some of the traditions reported from the Prophet (S) in respect of forbidding from taking knowledge from Ahl al-Kitab. But so soon the matter was reversed after Muslims be beguiled by some of the Jewish rabbis who embraced Islam for misleading others. That was with the emergence of some traditions ascribed to the Prophet (S) that permit learning from Ahl al-Kitab and abrogate the ones in which he forbade this. Abu Hurayrah and Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’As and others reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “There is no bjection to relate from Banu Israel.296 It is known that Abu Hurayrah and Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr were among disciples of Ka’b al-Ahbar. The reports indicate that the second one – i.e. Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-’As – got during the Battle of Yarmuk two scholarships of the sciences of Ahl al-Kitab, and used to relate from them. Ibn Hajar added to this: “For this reason many of the Imams of the Followers avoided reporting from him.”297

Notes:

294. They used to consider Ka'b among the first class of Tabi'un (al-Nujum al-Zahirah, vol.I, p.90), and the Hashwiyah still give him this rank.

295. Refer to my book Shaykh al-mudirah, to be aware of the Jewish traditions (Israeliyyat), which Abu Hurayrah took from his teacher Ka'b al-Ahbar.

296. Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol.I, p.4.

297. Fath al-Bari, vol.I, p.167.

Adapted from: "Lights on the Muhammadan Sunnah" by: "Mahmud Ali Riyyah"

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